PRINCETON: PU football tabbed as Ivy co-favorite

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By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Being tabbed as a pre-season favorite in the Ivy League is not something that happens very often for the Princeton University football team.
But this year, for just the sixth time in the program’s history, the Tigers are atop the Ivy League’s pre-season media poll.
Harvard and Princeton are co-favorites in the media poll. Both teams finished with 120 points in the poll, with Princeton securing six first-place votes and Harvard garnering five. Penn, which also received five first-place votes, was a close third with 110 points.
The poll was announced on Tuesday prior to the league’s annual media conference call with its head coaches.
Princeton, which was 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Ivy League a year ago, shared last season’s league title with Penn. This time around, if the media poll is to be believed, the Tigers and Quakers will battle Harvard for the league championship.
Princeton’s optimism may be dimmed slightly with the news that returning Bushnell Cup winner John Lovett, the Ivy League’s Offensive Player of the Year, will likely miss the start of the season with an injury. Lovett led all of the FCS and broke the Princeton single-season rushing touchdowns record with 20. The quarterback also passed for 10 touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass.
“John suffered an injury in week one last year and played through it all year long,” said Princeton coach Bob Surace, who is set to begin his eight season as the head coach at his alma mater. “He obviously had a tremendous year to say the least. We thought through rest and rehabilitation he would be fine. He had a great winter. He hit personal highs in all his strength marks. He suffered a setback in the spring and we went through that cycle again of rest and rehab.
“The decision was made medically to have surgery. The surgery was successful and knowing John, he’ll be attacking his rehab full speed and we certainly look forward to getting him back on the field soon. He will go through his rehab. A lot of it will be up to when he is healthy. The medical staff does a great job and when they clear him he’ll be ready.”
Fortunately, the Tigers have a more than capable option at quarterback with senior Chad Kanoff, who was a second team All-Ivy selection at quarterback after passing for over 1,700 yards and six touchdowns. He shared the position with Lovett last year, but will be the main option this year until Lovett returns.
“Chad Kanoff will lead the skill group this season,” Surace said. “Chad played the game at a high level last fall and his leadership has been outstanding. We are excited to see him take his game up to the next level.”
Princeton has a new offensive coordinator this season as Sean Gleeson takes over for James Perry, who departed to become the head coach at Bryant University in Rhode Island. The offense has plenty of returning depth and will be a strong point for the Tigers this season.
“We have a number of skill guys returning,” Surace said. “One of our strengths should be our offensive line. We return nine of the 10 on the two-deep from last year and all of them saw time. They are led by Mitch Sweigart, our left tackle, who had a fine year for us last year.”
On defense, the Tigers have a number of holes to fill. They lost six players who were either first- or second-team All-Ivy selections, but Surace is confident there are other players ready to step in to fill those holes.
“We do return a number of high-quality players, led by captain Kurt Holuba (defensive lineman),” Surace said. “He had a tremendous off-season. Chance Melancon at cornerback, that was a position of doubt for us and he solidified it. We went into the off-season knowing six high-caliber players were gone and we had some holes to fill.
“Ben Ellis, a safety, has really shined. Tom Johnson took to the inside linebacker position well. Quincy Wolff (linebacker), with the extra reps he had, has really improved. Mike Wagner on the defensive front has been a productive pass rusher and his all around game really started to flourish. Joe DeMarco and Jake Strain are two guys in that defensive line rotation that stepped up into larger roles this spring and have done very well.”
Princeton will open the season on Sept. 16 when it  plays as the hoist to the Pioneer League champion, the University of San Diego, in a noon start.
The Tigers will face Lafayette on the road the following week before opening the Ivy League season at home against Columbia on Sept. 30.
Princeton will be on the road against the other two Ivy favorites, playing at Harvard on Oct. 20 in a Friday night matchup and at Penn on Nov. 4.
Among the highlights to the overall Ivy League schedule, Dartmouth and Brown will play their league game at legendary Fenway Park in Boston on Nov. 10.

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